Africa and Europe hand in hand - the 7th OVO conference

Published: 08/12/2022

On November 22nd, the 7th OVO Congress was held.  The theme this time was "Africa and Europe hand in hand. A choice selection of speakers highlighted the major challenges facing Africa, but also the unique opportunities the continent has to offer.

Experienced OVO congress attendees couldn't agree more: this was the best OVO congress ever. All the ingredients to make it a success were present: top speakers who clearly knew what they were talking about, an enthusiastic audience, an enjoyable networking reception afterwards and a location to be proud of.


Indeed, the conference took place in the new imposing headquarters of OVO's key member BNP Paribas Fortis. So the first guest introduced by moderator Freddy De Mulder was Herman Daems, chairman of the bank's Board of Directors and host of the evening.  He stated that development, entrepreneurship and sustainability are not easy to combine, but thanks to technology it is possible. Africa can grow faster without the ecological problems facing the Western world. Technology should make that possible. The second speaker of the evening agreed. Luc Bonte, chairman of the OVO Board of Directors since 2008, raised the question of how we can reduce our ecological impact and still give people a better life. The answer is contained in OVO's mission: to promote sustainable entrepreneurship. Fortunately, Africa has the great advantage of having a very young population that is fast embracing new technologies.


OVO celebrates its 22nd anniversary

The conference was simultaneously a birthday celebration, as this year OVO is celebrating its 22nd anniversary. Joris Totté, advisor to the Minister of Development Cooperation, congratulated the organization for its 22 years of cooperation with African entrepreneurs and praised the volunteers and partner companies. He also pointed out that investing in this young continent (60% of the population is under 25) can bring a huge "return," both for Africa and Europe. And the only way, according to him, is by supporting sustainable entrepreneurship, because that provides good jobs and a livable income.  

Ifeyinwa Ugochukwy, CEO of the Tony Elumelu Foundation, delivered immediate proof that Africans are right on board with the latest technology. She was the only one reading her speech from a smartphone. And she too left no doubt: entrepreneurship is the solution to many problems such as the growing inequality between rich and poor, among others. Africa is the only continent getting younger, therefore 12 million jobs are needed per year, now 3 million are added annually. She called the young population a ticking time bomb. Notable quote, "what is happening in Ukraine is terrible, but in many African cities that is daily life. Giving entrepreneurs, especially in small and medium enterprises, every opportunity to grow is the best solution, she said, because they are the backbone of the economy and they create the jobs.



Goal: the women

One of the previous speakers mentioned it: 130 million African girls between the ages of 6 and 17 do not go to school. That's a huge potential. Cécile Billaux, from the European Commission's Directorate-General for International Partnerships, pointed to the many projects and initiatives Europe is rolling out on the African continent. One of these rightly focuses specifically on women: the Women Entrepreneurship for Africa, a program that organizes training for women entrepreneurs and also supports them financially, with or without other partners.  From the many successful examples she cited, we can only conclude that African women entrepreneurs know how to get things done. 


And the winner is…

At the end of the conference, in celebration of OVO's 22nd anniversary, awards were presented to partner companies and volunteers. They rightly received a thunderous applause from the many attendees. We would like to give the last word to chairman Luc Bonte: "This was the best congress ever, with a very powerful theme and speakers who gave a very strong presentation. I especially liked Ifeyinwa's statement about Ukraine. One thing is already clear: Europe and Africa must continue to cooperate in all areas." 


Marc Van de Velde

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